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In every person's life, there are defining moments that stand out in such relief that the course of our individual lives will never be the same. Rarely, however, is there a moment of such cataclysmic proportions that the collective heartbeat of a nation seems to stop--a supremely defining instant after which our collective lives will forever be changed. Such an event was the real and symbolic 911 call that arrested the world's attention at 8:46 a.m. on Sept. 11, 2001.
This unspeakable act of barbaric cruelty left us in a state of primal shock and fear for ourselves, our children, our way of life, our nation and our world. Our emotions ranged from blood-red rage, righteous wrath and an indiscriminate cry for revenge to a grief too powerful and profound to be spoken--and in many instances even shared.
But the overriding response to the tragedy was a staggering sense of insecurity. For decades Americans had taken comfort in our nation's position as a superpower and had assumed an attitude of invincibility. Suddenly we realized just how vulnerable we are.
In the aftermath of the event, we also became more aware of terrorist acts and increasing unrest in other parts of the world--the Muslim persecution of Christians in Sudan, suicide bombings in Israel, fighting in the Middle East. Continual warnings of potential terrorist acts serve to remind us of persistent danger on our own soil. There seems to be nowhere that can be considered safe.
Believers cannot escape this insecure world, but we can be secure in the midst of it. Our safety does not lie in any external means of protection but in the knowledge that God is in control and is looking out for us.
In my own attempt to process the tragedy, I found myself reading and rereading Psalm 91:1 and marveling that God had already prepared an emergency response for 9/11 in His Word. It is not coincidental that it is 91:1 as well! Line by line and precept upon precept, throughout Psalm 91 we find comfort, strength, protection and grace to deliver us from the greatest enemy since the events of 9/11--fear.
THE PLACE OF PROTECTION The first verse of Psalm 91 declares, "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (NKJV). This is a powerful promise, but it does not apply to everyone. It applies to the one who "dwells"--remains, stays, inhabits, lives in, resides and takes up his abode in--the secret place of God.
God is not a respecter of persons. But He does have a special place for those who are "God chasers," who stay close to Him, not just in calamity but in good times as well; who want relationship with Him not favors from Him. They "dwell" in that place of closeness, of intimacy with God, of communion and fellowship with Him, of joyfully embracing His Word, His law and His presence.
This is the one who "shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty." Abiding under the shadow means close to, in proximity to, up close and personal. "Under the shadow" also creates the image of a greater one hovering above and covering a smaller one.
This is a direct reference to the contrast of God's overarching grandeur and person with our insignificant selves. We will find respite, shade, solace, comfort, protection and security once we snuggle up close to the source of the shadow, the very presence of God.
THE PERSON OF PROTECTION The key to finding security in an insecure world is to examine the source of the promise of safety. In other words, who is the person promising to provide help in need?
It is this question that, since 9/11, has left so many people feeling insecure and vulnerable because the attacks came against the things America has relied on for "security" in the past. Now we can no longer feel safe in relying on any of our traditional sources of power: military, political or economic.
The very source of our military power and leadership was struck in the Pentagon. Our source of political power, the government, was most likely the target of the failed attempt of the fourth plane. Our economic invincibility was dealt a major blow in New York City, the financial capital of the world. None of these, therefore, can provide the sense of safety that we have been craving since 9/11.
But look at Psalm 91. In this case it couldn't be better. The Person of protection is the one immutable fact of the universe.
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